Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Words of the Week

“Hey, Mr. Kill List: I am not your gay brother. Take your patronizing, mawkish, Hallmark card, gasbag philosophizing -- and you know what you can do with it.”  - Arthur Silber

Just read what Arthur has to say. He is one of my favorite bloggers of all time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Love Lupe Fiasco

Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist, Gaza was getting bombed Obama didn’t say sh*t. That’s why I ain’t vote for him next one either. I’m part of the problem, the problem is I’m peaceful.

Until recently I knew nothing about Lupe Fiasco. I am similarly and quite happily uninformed about every other popular artist of the moment as well. I am too old and too stuck in the music of my youth to care. What’s going on? I’m the wrong one to ask.

Recently Lupe Fiasco got onto my personal radar screen because he criticized Obama for killing people. It seems like a reasonable thing to do. We are taught that killing is wrong, but somehow comfortably do moral injury to ourselves by excusing murder when it is committed by anyone who is wearing a uniform or living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Not Mr. Fiasco. Last night he was performing at an inauguration event in Washington and he sang an anti-war song. Viva Lupe! He was escorted off stage because he was booed by the crowd, or because his song was too long, or because he proclaimed he didn’t vote for Obama. Versions differ, but Fiasco is now in the Obamabot dog house.

Artists are supposed to take risks and some of those risks are political. On a day when millions will only debate who loves Obama more, it is refreshing to know that there are a few who will speak out.

I still know nothing about his music, but I love Lupe if only because he is willing to tell the truth. It is sad but true, being peaceful is seen as being a problem in this culture.

Let’s hear it for the problem children.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Justice for Shawty Lo!

Carlos Walker, aka Shawty Lo, was doomed from day one. From the moment his new reality show “All My Babies’ Mamas” was announced, it attracted a firestorm of criticism.

At this late date in history, black people still experience shame and embarrassment about the behavior of other black people. I think that the over wrought response was rather sad. I had never heard of Atlanta based rapper, and wasn’t interested in watching him or his 11 children and their mothers. I was at times amused about the online petitions and expressions of outrage. At other moments I despaired that black people spent so much time and energy debating a silly show that ought to be ignored.

What do white people think of us all when they see the Walkers of the world? They think what they thought before they saw them. The black president is called the food stamp president and lazy, so it is clear that the stature of individual black people doesn’t deter racist thinking. The sight of Shawty won’t change anyone’s opinion and racism will be alive and well regardless.

No matter. The Oxygen cable network has decided not to move ahead with the show. I took a look at the website and discovered several reality shows I had never even heard of. I suspect that Shawty would have gone under the radar as well.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Shawty Lo’ and all his babies’ mamas

Until about one week ago I had never heard of Shawty Lo’. I now know he is an Atlanta based rapper born with the name Carlos Walker. News about him is difficult to avoid. 

You see, Shawty is the father of 11 children whom he produced with 10 different women. Not cool, for about 10 or 11 different reasons, but it does happen. I don’t think I was alone in being blissfully unaware of Walker’s existence, but he is now a household name because he will be the star of an upcoming reality show, All My Babies’ Mamas, which will be shown on the Oxygen network.

Black America has not been so unified in expressing disgust, outrage, hatred and anxiety in quite some time. There is an online petition demanding that Shawty, his babies, and their mamas not appear on our televisions.

It isn’t hard to understand why black people are so uncomfortable about the prospect of Shawty and his family appearing on television. What could be more stereotypical than a black man who has children with 10 different women?

Yet I have to admit feeling that some of the outrage is excessive in this age of reality television. There are reality series about redneck rocket scientists, redneck loggers, and rednecks who fish with their hands. Then we have crazed parents dressing their pre-school daughters in padded bras and wigs  in order to win beauty pageants. The entire state of Alaska is now a source of fascination with gold prospectors, state troopers, and the coast guard on the small screen. Pawn shops, storage facilities, the Amish, ghost hunters, ice road truckers, bigfoot hunters, hoarders, pregnant teens, addicts and polygamist families (not just Shorty’s) are also on the list of  reality fare.

I think the anti-Shawty brigade is really afraid that they will succumb to the inclination to rubberneck and will end up watching the rapper and his babies and their mamas. We all fume when someone else slows down to view the wreck by the side of the road, but who resists the temptation to glance at the mayhem themselves?

If Shawty makes it onto the air, most black people horrified by this news will end up watching some part of what outrages them so much. They may watch just a few minutes, or just one episode, or will watch only because a friend calls and tells them to, but Shawty will not be shunned.

Without having watched even one episode of Sister Wives I know that a mormon fundamentalist named Cody had three wives and then took a fourth wife who had been married before and already had two children. I know this just from the commercials I can’t avoid when I’m watching something else.

So I and millions of other people who are either judgmental towards or indifferent to Shawty will still know about his life. That is the real fear. There is no escape in this age of media over saturation.

The Shawty haters will still see the commercials, have friends or family who post facebook news about him or be told that there is a viral video about one or other mama or baby. Shawty will be ever present in our lives whether we want him to be or not.

If people are going to spend time and energy thinking about Shawty Lo’ it should be used to discuss how we are inundated by media and how that effects us all. Why do these corporations play such a big role in our lives and how can we avoid their ever growing influence?

Don’t fear Shawty, fear the corporation and the fact that they have put him front and center. No one else will have 11 kids with 10 different women unless they were inclined to do so in the first place. We will be no worse off if he has a television show and white people who see him as affirming their negative opinions of all black people will be racist whether Shawty is on television or not.

So bring it on Oxygen. Why should rednecks make all the reality cash? Someone with 11 kids definitely needs to make money.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Aaron Swartz Legal Defense Fund

“Economic suffering and anxiety — and anger over it and the flamboyant prosperity of the elites who caused it — is only going to worsen.  So, too, will the refusal of the Western citizenry to meekly accept their predicament. As that happens, who it is who controls the Internet and the flow of information and communications takes on greater importance.  Those who are devoted to preserving the current system of prerogatives certainly know that, and that is what explains this obsession with expanding the Surveillance State and secrecy powers, maintaining control over the dissemination of information, and harshly punishing those who threaten it.” Glenn Greenwald

Aaron Swartz is facing up to 35 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million because the Barack Obama justice department has decided to persecute him.  I deliberately did not say prosecute. Persecution is a better description of the vendetta being carried out against him.

Swartz downloaded scientific journals from the subscription service Journal Storage, Jstor, without paying for them. He didn’t distribute the articles to anyone else, and he returned the content to Jstor, which has no interest in prosecuting Swartz.

At first glance it seems illogical that the feds would go to such lengths to punish Swartz, but the quote from Glenn Greenwald explains it all. The system wants to punish, to thoroughly crush anyone who threatens their prerogatives. The Greenwald article gives examples of how governments in Egypt or the UK or the managers of the BART transit system have used technology to disrupt dissent.

There is a lot more dissent coming, with austerity measures ruining the lives of millions of people and the military powers of the west being used to kill anywhere on the planet where it is deemed convenient to do so.  That is why it is imperative that Aaron Swartz get the best legal defense possible. You can contribute to the Aaron Swartz Legal Defense Fund. It isn’t hyperbolic to say that by doing so, you will strike a blow for liberty.